James Ford Seale: A Re-Birth, of a Fashion | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

James Ford Seale: A Re-Birth, of a Fashion

Now that the trial is going on, a bit of new media background on the declaration that Seale was dead has been added to the record. I just read a post on the Hungry Blues blog. He quotes a new article by John Fleming in the Anniston Star about the false reporting about Seale's greatly exaggerated death.

What's interesting is that he reveals that Allen Breed of the Associated Press originally put out the bad information, which was then repeated without factcheck by The Clarion-Ledger and The Los Angeles Times:

In 2005, interviewed by the Associated Press, Seale Jr. said his father had died several months earlier. In fact, his father was still very much alive.

In his interview with The Star, Seale Jr. said he told the AP his father was dead so the wire service would leave him alone.

"That reporter kept harassing me, and I finally told him my father was dead just so he would leave me alone. I told him if he didn't stop calling me, I was going to sue him for harassment."

AP reporter Allen Breed said that although he left messages, he talked to Seale Jr. only twice, once when Seale told him his father was dead and once when Seale threatened to sue him.

This is interesting on a couple fronts. As far as we can find out, it was Allen Breed, or at least the AP, who immediately after the indictment put out in January 2007 that Seale was a "former deputy." That headline appeared around the world, and is still being repeated, even though everyone down to the prosecutors say it isn't true. (He was briefly a police officer over in Louisiana much later on.)

We also got reports from sources in Franklin County that, in the weeks after the indictments broke, Breed was calling around, actively trying to confirm that Seale was a deputy there. We still haven't seen a correction run (anyone?) and, in fact, when BBC interviewed the JFP last week, they called Seale "former deputy." We've had to correct several media outlets on this since January, although I didn't manage to work it into the BBC interview.

The other intriguing part of the Anniston piece is that it is incomplete because, like so many media outlets, they are ignoring the JFP's role in establishing that Seale was still alive, along with David and Thomas (and as Breed did when he wrote a story saying that Seale was still alive, weeks after we reported it in 2005). It is widely known that the JFP found out at the same time from a former Klansman while working with David and Thomas as a team, and reporters should have the ethic to call and ask us about it if they hear otherwise, considering that many of them are reading our stories (the only ones that have been written in detail about that trip to date) for information and calling us for various kinds of help, which we've been happy to give.

Also, Ben's point about Ronnie Harper is very good. Thomas and David had gone to see Harper that Friday morning as Kate and I were driving to Meadville to meet them. Right after we met up in Meadville, Thomas told us with surprise and a bit of disbelief that Harper had said he thought Seale was still alive. But it wasn't until the next day when we split up so that Kate and I could interview former Klansman Greer on our own that Thomas and David confirmed from people in Roxie and we learned from Greer that he was alive. I will never forget the excited cell calls back and forth right after we left Greer's house.

All that said, Ben makes a very good point on Hungry Blues that Harper seemed to know that he was alive and, thus, that a very lackadaisical approach—both from media that weren't beating the ground in Franklin County to check facts and from law enforcement who weren't working hard on the case—is what kept justice from happening sooner in this case. That said, I am very grateful that Thomas came back when he did and that David helped put us all down there together to jumpstart this case. I have never done anything more meaningful than help bring this story and case back to life despite some fortunately surmountable odds.

Now the passion put into that case must be transferred into other cases to ensure that the meaningfulness of this work continues and spreads. This is no time to stop, and this should not be the last case.

Previous Comments

ID
131610
Comment

I always worried that no one would give the JFP the credit it deserved. I'm also not surprised at the shoddy reporting that the "lamestream" media sells as fact. At least Seale's on trial.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2007-06-10T13:49:43-06:00
ID
131611
Comment

He is on trial, and that's what matters at this juncture, along with the education that is happening for us all as a result. It stings when Mississippians' role is ignored, especially in a story like this, but my goal throughout it all has been not to get too caught up in the unimportant and to keep my eyes on the future and the truth. I do want to give our young team of journalists a big hand, however. Kate Medley, Natalie Irby, Thabi Moyo and now (adopted transplant) Matt Saldaña—all in their 20s—have worked hard to tell the Dee-Moore story to the world. Darren Schwindaman and Jakob Clark designed the stories with a reverence I haven't seen given to our other work. They all deserve a huge round of applause for their efforts to tell Mississippi's stories. In fact, Natalie Irby arrives home tomorrow from Nashville to help Matt blog the last week of the trial. You will recall that she blogged the Killen trial in June 2005, and helped do piles of research for the Dee-Moore story before we ever set foot in Meadville. Then, she transcribed hours of tapes from our trip to Meadville with Thomas and CBC. Welcome back, Natalie.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-10T14:04:15-06:00
ID
131612
Comment

Way to go, Ben! And thanks, Donna, Matt, Natalie, Kate, Thabi!

Author
C.W.
Date
2007-06-10T16:09:34-06:00
ID
131613
Comment

Donna, when I watched the film last night, I saw the JFP cover with Thomas Moore on it, and I also saw the JFP and Thabi Moyo in the ending credits. I didn't see Kate's name, so maybe I overlooked it.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-10T19:47:26-06:00
ID
131614
Comment

I didn't see a JFP cover, L.W., when I watched it on tape today. I did see the cover of the Colorado Springs Independent with Thomas on it; they picked up our original story a couple weeks or so after we published it in the JFP. BTW, my initial comments about the film are in the comments under this story. I will watch it again, and write a real review of it, figuring I'm qualified. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-10T19:53:03-06:00
ID
131615
Comment

Donna, the cover had "I Want Justice, Too" on it. Maybe it was the Colorado paper?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-10T19:56:51-06:00
ID
131616
Comment

Yes, that was the headline on the reprint published later in the Colorado paper; odd that they would choose that one and not the JFP, eh? That's one for the textbooks; it certainly helps build my case about national media not wanting to give Mississippians credit. It's remarkable to choose that cover instead of the JFP's, considering how closely CBC worked with the JFP on the trip (and that they ostensibly were coming to cover us doing the story!). Ah, live and learn. If I was 10 years younger, this might tick me off. ;-) As it is, I'm pretty Zen about it. My goals on this story are being fulfilled in spades.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-10T19:58:14-06:00
ID
131617
Comment

That makes no sense to me. Why not print the original? Sigh. Well, at least they mentioned you guys in the ending credits.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-10T20:02:22-06:00
ID
131618
Comment

It does make sense, in a sad way, but I don't want to get into it now. I want to stay focused on what's important here -- and it's sure not egos.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-10T20:03:50-06:00
ID
131619
Comment

That's fine. I admire your ability to concentrate on the greater good. Eventually, the JFP will be richly rewarded for all their hard work. It's only a matter of time.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-10T20:14:23-06:00
ID
131620
Comment

Thanks, L.W. There is a season. That's something I often have to remind myself about. ;-) This story is about so much more than what journalists helped make it happen, and I have my eye on that justice prize. Anything else can wait.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-10T20:20:53-06:00
ID
131621
Comment

That's the spirit! :-D

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-10T20:23:16-06:00
ID
131622
Comment

Oh, and there is no richer reward to me as a Mississippian than to see these cold cases—all of them—brought to light and prosecuted, wherever possible. I will do everything I can do to make that happen. And I'm fully prepared for the fact that non-Mississippians will be slow (or reluctant) to acknowledge those efforts in the state. That's fine. The work will continue, regardless.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-10T20:23:42-06:00
ID
131623
Comment

I agree whole heartily with you about the ‘cold cases’. I would even go a step further. I would like to see a reformation on the statute of limitation laws on other felonies, primarily crimes against children.

Author
Truthseeker
Date
2007-06-11T09:45:44-06:00
ID
131624
Comment

It seems that they just spent much of the a.m. arguing about revelations in the film that Thomas and David gave the star witness, Charles Marcus Edwards, a copy of the FBI report, and what Lampton's role might have been in that. Sigh. More soon.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-11T11:00:23-06:00
ID
131625
Comment

I would have thought they would have waited until after the trail was over to release the film. I was a little surprised at that. In fact, had it been me making the film, and a trial was looming, I might have wanted to include that in the film to make it complete.

Author
C.W.
Date
2007-06-11T13:31:16-06:00
ID
131626
Comment

As it is now, we run the risk of having this fool get off scot free for this crime because of the filmmakers. Just what Mississippi needs, because you know they won't blame them.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2007-06-11T13:36:54-06:00
ID
131627
Comment

IG, I thought the point of the film was to bring attention to the case to get it reopened. I just think the defense has sour grapes because the film was shown and are now trying to twist things.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-11T13:41:25-06:00
ID
131628
Comment

L.W., the immediate problem today is the timing of the film. It should NOT have been shown during the trial. Fortunately, the damage seems to have been contained, but it was a victory for the defense. It wasn't sour grapes; it was smart lawyering. I'm surprised the U.S. attorney let them air it so soon. Maybe they didn't ask him; I don't know, but it was a close call. (I'm about to update above; just back from the courtroom.) It's also a bizarre situation in that the film itself did not get the case re-opened. It came out after the indictments and is basically a story about itself being made. If that makes sense.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-11T15:03:07-06:00
ID
131629
Comment

And C.W., you're right. The film, as shown, is not very up to date or historically accurate. For instance, it shows Edwards' '60s-era statement that he pointed out Dee because he was "peeping" at his wife. Edwards has made it clear throughout the trial (and it was clear from the January indictments) that the motive was because the Klan was paranoid about guns, and thought Dee knew something. I'm just befuddled that that wasn't in the film, along with many other pertinent facts. It's really more of a road-trip film about a serious topic; the best part is the powerful footage of Thomas. He's wonderful on camera.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-11T15:07:10-06:00
ID
131630
Comment

According to WAPT, blame is being placed on what Edwards may have seen on ABC's 20/20. Did you hear them mention that?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-06-11T15:11:28-06:00
ID
131631
Comment

L.W., the Gilbert statement on ABC was also an issue, but the WAPT story missed the concern with the documentary, it seems. It was a big media day.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-06-11T15:19:39-06:00

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